Ballet Under the Stars 2016 – Contemporary Weekend (Part 2)



2. Incomparable Beauty by Ma Cong

This was created specially for Singapore Dance Theatre. Ma Cong’s works are wildly large, imaginative, complex.

Please excuse me any unclear/incorrect details below (see also the About page). Had problems with the memory stick. Stuck to thinking about the dancers and their dancing because of memory overload.

02 incomparable beauty buts 2016



There’s that opening moment when a couple of men hold Chua Bi Ru aloft and she stares out starkly into the crowd, her legs and arms crossed at angles, her fingers and hands twisted, and you know the show has begun. A goddess of incomparable beauty.

It’s a risk giving any piece such a name, because the crowd might start asking themselves if it’s a work of incomparable beauty. I can say it’s a fiendishly difficult work, it’s extremely thorough and, to the untrained eye, there’s a sort of analytical complexity to it.

Objectively speaking, it was really very long, and I think the choreographer and dancers were amazing to have come up with it, and to have executed it so thoroughly. I suspect the length wore out the enthusiasm (not quite the patience) of part of the audience. But objectively (again), I appreciate the no-stone-left-unturned effect, that everything that went out onstage was what it was meant to be, and pushed out to the fullest.

It gets hard when you stop to think: what’s Incomparable Beauty supposed to mean, and does this adequately demonstrate it? Who’s the Incomparable Beauty? So you can just opt to sit back and watch Li Jie execute a landing-bird move: a turn or leap, landing in a  low arabesque on plie and hop-sliding forward so slightly on her landing foot that it almost looks like a mistake, as she drops her left hand gracefully from high fifth and stretches it out forward to mirror her arabesque.

I don’t know why, but that part always startles and amazes the brain. Of course you’ve seen something similar to that hop-slide not-mistake in Schubert Symphony (executed by Elaine Heng), but this little move, when paired with its graceful arm movements, somehow startles the mind, because this was not what the mind expected to see. You’re given one-third of a breath to wonder if you saw a mistake, before this move is echoed by Kwok Min Yi and a third dancer.

It’s bizarre, it’s graceful, it wakes the mind up.

Here’s a video from SDT’s Instagram, so that hopefully, you understand what I meant about analytical complexity. On that note, their Instagram is really very lively and you even get little clips when they interview dancers for In the Wings (which has picked up again at last, except that Elaine Heng’s 2016 Interview isn’t actually up on SDT’s website though the Instagram says it is, for some reason :x)

Scene 1 is from the opening scene: Chua Bi Ru with Jason Carter and Huo Liang

Scene 2, L-R: Chua Bi Ru with Huo Liang; Maughan Jemesen with Yorozu Kensuke; Kwok Min Yi with Etienne Ferrere; Li Jie with Jason Carter

Scene 3: Maughan Jemesen with Yorozu Kensuke.


It’s easier to talk about the dancers.

Watching Maughan Jemesen, whether alone or with Yorozu Kensuke in a pas de deux, it struck me that we were very, very fortunate to watch her perform and to have her as part of SDT. I was sorry I wrote “artistry” in the last post after I put it up, because how on earth am I going to explain that? Stunning artistry: you know only that she is dancing it correctly, and not merely in technique; it’s almost as if she has donned another mantle, she is breathing and living the dance. I can’t explain it when I can’t articulate what incomparable beauty means or is about; but when Maughan Jemesen danced in Incomparable Beauty (and again in others such as Edwaard Liang’s Age of Innocence and Nil Christe’s Symphony in Three Movements in Masterpiece in Motion), she was melded with the dance. Poured into its mould, made one with it, in expression both in face and in body. There, that sounded weird.

Here are some videos from Instagram.

Rosa (this part was danced by Maughan in BUTS) with Yorozu Kensuke


Maughan (this part was danced by Kwok Min Yi in BUTS) with Etienne Ferrere


Maughan Jemesen breathes her own unique life into the finished product, that’s what. Quite recently, the SDT website took down her profile i.e. she has left SDT 😦 Wishing her all the best (think if there is energy, there should be a post).

Unique brings us to Kwok Min Yi — who has stood out memorably in e.g. Swan Lake as one of the 6 Princesses, and in last year’s Midnight Waltzes (not quite contemporary ballet). This is the first major full-length soloist contemporary ballet role she’s been in, I think, and she’s got a very watchable, intriguing contemporary ballet style. She’s got a sort of rhythm that reminds me of breakdancers, or modern dancers, or freestyle dancers — and it stands out in the company, somehow, because it’s not often seen here, at least amongst the female dancers. We do hope to see her in more major contemporary roles. (On that note, Shan del Vecchio has that sort of style, for contemporary ballet.) Also, it’s not easy taking on another person’s role, and she did so (including the tricky pas de deux with Etienne Ferrere).

I’m going to eat into my own posts for the future by saying here (in case it takes me months to get round to it): Etienne Ferrere, Jason Carter and Huo Liang were really impressive during BUTS and Masterpiece in Motion. Etienne Ferrere’s a dependably strong dancer with lots of flair and energy. A breath of life in every single moment: in profile, throwing out his arms and going backwards on one leg in sync with the electronic rhythm and beat of the music; skillfully handling the pas de deux. More than just reliable: always a spirited, fine-tuned performance that fits the mood of the dance: the delicate Blue Snow, and now this, and lastly, the fabulous Swipe!, all in one night.

Here is Jason Carter in the pas de deux with Li Jie and the other couples in the background:


It’s always good to see dancers surpass themselves. Jason Carter turning in a reliable, steady performance throughout BUTS and Masterpiece in Motion: you knew you were in for a stable performance when he appeared, and he’s a good partner for Li Jie in this.

Huo Liang turning in reliable performances throughout both as well. In Incomparable Beauty, as the dancing doll-mannequin with wriggling arms (earlier, twas the girls who were the doll-mannequins dragged across the back of the stage, legs in diamond-shapes or straight-out). This could have looked ridiculous, but it didn’t; one’s eye would stay on him because, interestingly, you could hear (so to speak) his voice more strongly now, and see and grasp his style. Also: a very hard-working partner for Chua Bi Ru (in both Blue Snow which was just before Incomparable Beauty, and Incomparable Beauty itself).

Tired now. Quick comments on Bi Ru (as always, very compelling and charismatic in contemporary ballet, as in classical — almost a muse-like quality because she has a very expressive face and dancing style) and Li Jie (often seen more in classical — it’s very good to be able to watch her display her abilities in contemporary ballet — beautiful pliability and a voice speaking through now, and very obviously strong dancing — and even more obviously so in Masterpiece in Motion, which I have to mention now in case I get lazy about it).




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